It's over in the blink of an eye. Well, okay, 50.6 seconds to be exact -- but what an exhilarating not-quite-a-minute. It's Kingda Ka, the record-shattering rocket coaster that New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure unleashed in 2005. When it debuted, it took top honors as the fastest and tallest coaster on the planet. Since then, it has elicited scads of screams, abundant adrenaline spikes, hordes of horrific gasps, and at least a few wet undergarments.
(It's no wonder it made my list for the scariest coasters.)
Let's examine this wild coaster and engineering marvel, starting with its wildly impressive stats:
- Type of coaster: Hydraulic launch rocket coaster
- Height: 456 feet (world's tallest when it opened)
- Top speed: 128 mph (world's fastest when it opened)
- Coaster elements: 456-foot tall top hat tower, with 90-degree ascent and descent
- 129-foot second hill designed to provide free-floating airtime.
- Minimum height requirement: 54 inches
Is It Still the Fastest and the Tallest?
When it first launched, Kingda Ka took the tallest and fastest coaster trophies from rival Cedar Point and its essentially similar Top Thrill Dragster. It held both records for many years, but another coaster, Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, has since bested Kingda Ka in the speed department. It is still the fastest coaster in the United States and the world's second fastest coaster.
You can see how the speed demons rate in my updated listing of the world's 10 fastest roller coasters.
As of 2017, Kingda Ka is still holding on to its height record. But it may not have bragging rights too much longer. A very different coaster, SkyScraper, is supposed to open in Orlando in 2019 and take the mantle as the world's tallest coaster.
See other contenders in my list of the 10 tallest roller coasters in the world.
Kingda Ka uses a hydraulic launch to blast off horizontally and reach 128 mph -- yeah, you read that right, 128 freakin' mph -- in 3.5 seconds. How in the world does it accomplish this amazing feat? You can get the lowdown in my article, "Kingda Huh? How Kingda Ka Works."
To meet huge demand, the rocket coaster accommodates four trains and has two loading platforms in its station. Manufactured by Swiss ride manufacturer Intamin, the thrill machine uses an over-the-shoulder safety restraint system.
Like Ohio's Dragster, Kingda Ka climbs a top-hat tower at 90 degrees. In this case, the apex of the tower reaches a staggering 456 feet, or 36 feet taller than Cedar Point's former champ. We're talking about 45 stories in the air. Riders don't have much time to either appreciate the view or get freaked out, however. The trains crest the tower and plummet 418 feet straight down the other side before entering into a 270-degree vertical spiral.
Kingda Ka uses some of its incredible height and speed to deliver a hint of airtime. After the top hat, it climbs a 129-foot tall hill designed to induce weightlessness. Then, after the proverbial blink of an eye, it's back to the station.
(Come to think of it, it's likely that there isn't any eye-blinking going on among passengers while experiencing Kingda Ka's all-out assault.)
So, how is the ride? I'm glad you asked. Read my full review of Kingda Ka to see how I rate the coaster. (Hint: When it comes to coasters, speed, and height, while important, aren't the only factors that determine a great ride.)
When it first opened, the newfangled ride had numerous mechanical issues that caused delays and closures. I happened to witness the most severe malfunction, which closed the ride for weeks.